Without any forethought I stumbled into a situation where I had the opportunity to understand why it’s so damn hard to get a decent job, even if you’re well educated and ambitious.
A couple of months ago I came across an ad for an organization looking for volunteers to join its board of directors. Given that I was thinking that I might one day like to be involved in an organization of that nature I decided to apply and landed the position.
Eventually I went to a meeting for the board of directors and was very surprised at how accomplished all the other directors were. I was also surprised that I was by far the youngest one there, probably by three decades.
Then, as if luck were raining horseshoes from the sky, I learned that the organization was looking for a new Executive Director. I thought about applying myself, but then I learned that the pay was very low (roughly 24K per year, part time) and thought, “fuck that”. Plus, I realized I was probably under qualified. So, I thought, “what a great opportunity to see it from the other side”, and volunteered to be on the hiring committee. Given my legal background and willingness to work for free, they were delighted to have me.
I tried to tell them that they wouldn’t find anyone good at that rate, because I honestly believed that to be true. They replied that anyone who was willing to give up the opportunity based on financial considerations didn’t care enough about the cause and wouldn’t be the right fit. I reflected on how classist this was. I was particularly perturbed given that the remark came from fellow board members who were all retired after fantastically successful careers, who all ostensibly draw comfortable pensions, and none of whom seemed to have any insight into what it might be like to have financial concerns at all. It was annoying and unfair but I didn’t want to tarnish the relationship so I didn’t push the issue and continued on as a working member of the team. I rationalized that once the applications started pouring in they would see things from a different perspective, my perspective.
Boy was I wrong.
Most of the applications we got were from amazingly accomplished individuals, many of who had received recognition for their efforts, all of whom were, shockingly, willing to work for under $25K per year. They boasted about how they would love to show their dedication to a cause through this opportunity, how they could never picture themselves retiring ever. And, not surprisingly, they were all baby boomers. Any younger person’s offerings were massively eclipsed by the experience and low balling wage requirements of the baby boomers, and so they never stood a chance. It’s not that they weren’t fantastic, it’s just that they weren’t baby boomers.
It was (and still is) a bit depressing.
If you can’t find a job, consider that the cause may be generational.